Bloomberg Law: Privacy & Data Security brings you single-source access to the expertise of Bloomberg Law’s privacy and data security editorial team, contributing practitioners,...
A recent ruling by Germany’s high court classifying certain internet protocol addresses as personal data deserving privacy protection will affect how companies process IP addresses going forward, privacy attorneys told Bloomberg BNA.
The German court’s ruling appears to be consistent with European Union-wide jurisprudence on the privacy-protected status of IP addresses in the context of government use, but a thorough assessment of its implications for the private sector must await the release of the full text of the opinion. In Germany, there is normally a wait of several months until the ruling is released beyond the parties to the proceeding. Until then, a conservative risk approach is for companies doing business in Germany to treat IP addresses as personal data requiring privacy protection.
The German court concluded that dynamic IP addresses must be considered personal data for the operator of a public website, Carlo Piltz, a data protection attorney at Reuschlaw in Berlin, told Bloomberg BNA May 18. Dynamic IP addresses are assigned by Internet service providers every time users connect to the internet.
The Federal Supreme Court (BGH) ruled May 16 that websites operated by the German government may store IP addresses of visitors to their websites without their consent, but only if necessary to ensure the “general functionality” of a website, such as to defend against a cyberattack. “In doing so, however, there needs to be a consideration of the interests and basic rights and freedoms of internet users,” the court said in a May 16 statement.
The case involves a lawmaker who challenged the German federal government’s storage of dynamic IP addresses of people using government websites. The BGH referred the case to the the European Union’s highest court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which ruled that dynamic IP addresses registered by a website operator are personal data if the operator could identify the visitor with additional information obtained from an internet service provider.
Without the full text of the ruling, it “is absolutely impossible to say if there are great consequences,” Niko Harting, a privacy partner at Harting Rechtsanwälte in Berlin, told Bloomberg BNA May 18.
The impact of the ECJ’s decision on businesses was limited to website operators that are more likely to obtain information from the government, Harting said. It remains to be seen whether the German court followed that narrow line or took a broader view a that “IP addresses in general are personal data,” he said.
Piltz said that until the full text is released, companies should operate as if all IP addresses could be considered personal data by courts and privacy regulators.
The BGH has referred the litigation to the District Court of Berlin, where the case originated, with instructions to balance the legal interests of the parties and decide whether the government’s practice of storing users’ IP addresses is necessary to operate the website in question.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jabeen Bhatti in Berlin at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald Aplin at email@example.com
The German high court's statement on its ruling is available, in German, at goo.gl/OvBsaZ.
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)